Support Structures for CSOs at the Regional Level in CroatiaFunded by EuropeAid Co-operation Office - EuropeAID Location Croatia Status
1. SUPPORT STRUCTURES FOR CSOS AT THE REGIONAL LEVEL1.1. BACKGROUNDThe Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) was established by Council Regulation EC No 1085/2006 of 17 July 2006. It provides the overall framework within which pre-accession assistance will be made available to both candidate and potential candidate countries. Overall, EU assistance to Croatia has evolved from post-war re-construction and humanitarian aid (in the late 1990s) through stabilisation and association support (CARDS programme) to the use of three pre-accession programmes (Phare, ISPA and SAPARD) for 2005 and 2006.As of 2007, all components of the IPA programme are open to Croatia and are to provide assistance to build institutional capacity for the efficient implementation of the acquis communautaire as well as to prepare for the management of the Structural and Cohesion Funds upon accession. In bringing together pre-accession assistance across a range of instruments, IPA consists of five Components. Component IV - Human Resource Development, and the accompanying Operational Programme for Human Resources Development 2007 – 2013 (HRDOP) - shall contribute to strengthening economic and social cohesion as well as to the priorities of the European Employment Strategy in the field of social inclusion, education and training and employment. The HRDOP is designed to assist the candidate countries in policy development and to prepare them for the implementation and management of the Community’s Cohesion policy, in particular the European Social Fund (ESF). The grant scheme Support Structures for CSOs at the Regional Level is developed under the Priority Axis 5: Strengthening the Role of Civil Society for Better Governance and is designed to strengthen the role of civil society organisations for socio-economic growth and democratic development. Strategic framework for civil society development for the period 2012 – 2016 is set in the National Strategy for the Creation of an Enabling Environment for Civil Society Development , based on a broad consensus among civil society and government representatives. The measures set in the Strategy are to ensure adequate legislative, administrative and social conditions for the development and agency of civil society, as a fully independent and highly relevant social agent for social innovation, promotion of participatory democracy, protection of human rights and competent and efficient monitoring of public policies in the context of Croatia’s final phase of accession to the EU and its immediate aftermath. In spite of the solid institutional, legal and financial framework for civil society development in the Republic of Croatia, there is still a high level of inequality in terms of the development of CSOs across Croatian regions and local communities. This condition is a consequence of a general unbalanced development of different Croatian regions, lack of capacities of many local and regional governments to develop a strategic cooperation with civil society actors, and insufficient capacities of the latter to take a full advantage of existing opportunities for their financing and development. Moreover, there is a disproportionately high number of civil society organisations concentrated within the four main regional urban centres (Zagreb, Split, Rijeka, Osijek), which contributes further to the regional disparities in the development of civil society organisations. Local communities are faced with increasing responsibilities to provide for their own wellbeing and development. With fewer resources, communities need more successful ways of uniting people and resources. Community capacity can be thought of as the collection of knowledge, skills, and resources community members possess and use to work together to identify, pursue, and achieve shared goals, and CSOs can play a vital role in building quality networks on local levels that will boost local social development, and active citizens’ participation in solving local problems. Even though the level of (socio-) economic development of particular regions to some extent correlates with the development of civil society organisations, the latter highly depends also on the willingness of local and regional authorities to recognize the benefits of making partnerships with civil society organisations and to include them into the local/regional policy-making processes. In Croatia, there is currently no legal or institutional mechanism in existence, whereby a framework for a systematic involvement of civil society organisations into the various aspects of local and regional development would be provided. Although, there are some examples of existing civil society – local authority cross sectoral bodies (forums, or councils), more efforts need to be put in strengthening their work and developing new forms of cooperation. This can be done by using the Council for Civil Society Development as a model, or by developing new, innovative ways of cooperation.Additionally, the Call for Proposals aims to reduce regional differences and address barriers to accessing human rights (especially of vulnerable groups, such as minority groups, the homeless, unemployed, children without adequate parental care, young people, mentally ill persons, or groups at risk of poverty and social exclusion in general) due to lack of investments in some communities, as well as climate and geographic obstacles, by encouraging activities that will contribute to prevailing problems of accessing social rights due to physical remoteness and distance areas. The Call will encourage activities aimed at ensuring equal regional development by developing projects of cooperation with local stakeholders - local and regional self-government units, public institutions, social services providers based on local needs assessments. The cooperation of local stakeholders may be implemented by strengthening existing and/or establishing new local bodies for cooperation, introducing innovative tools and models of CSOs and citizens’ participation in decision-making, as well as by developing the capacity of CSOs at local levels to effectively address citizens’ needs. In order to ensure equal regional development in creating sustainable mechanisms to reach the stated objectives of the Call, it will aim to ensure the implementation of Actions in as many Croatian counties as possible.The expected outcomes of the actions financed are: improved communications among community members; greater civic participation in community decision-making and action; and economic development/job creation.